Happy Krishna Jayanthi

Krishna Janmashtami, also known as Krishnashtami, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti, Sree Jayanti or sometimes simply as Janmashtami, is an annual celebration of the birth of the Hindu deity Krishna.

In Tamil Nadu, women draw the footprints of Lord Krishna from the threshold of the house till the pooja room, which depicts the arrival of Lord Krishna into the house.

Given the maverik I am, I realized I don’t need to draw the footprints of Lord Krishna. I have two Lord Krishnas at home. I just need them to put their footprints on the threshold.

Aren’t traditions what we make out it?

M.S.’s beautiful rendering of Kurai Ondrum Illai is one of my favorite songs about Lord Krishna.

Happy Pongal

Thai Pongal is a Tamil harvest festival. Thai Pongal is a four day festival which according to the Gregorian calendar is normally celebrated from January 13 to January 16. The day marks the start of the sun’s six-month-long journey northwards (the Uttarayanam). This also corresponds to the Indic solstice when the sun purportedly enters the 10th house of the Indian zodiac Makara or Capricorn. Thai Pongal is mainly celebrated to convey appreciation to the Sun God for providing the energy for agriculture.

Thai Pongal - Ambal Balakrishnan - 1

Karthikai Deepam – Keeping Traditions Alive

Karthikai Deepam or Karthikai vilakkidu is a Hindu specially Tamils Festival of Lights. The festival is observed in most Hindu homes and every temple, and falls in the month of Kārttikai (mid-November to mid-December) as per Tamil calendar.

Today is Karthigi Deepam. It brings back many childhood memories.

My sister and I would eagerly wait for the sun to set. Then, we would wait for the lamp to be lit in one of those distant hill temples. As soon as we see the lamp lit, we would race with each other to light up the inside and outside of our house with little lamps (called agal vilaku in Tamil).

We had to keep the lamps filled with oil through out the evening. We also had to move the wick up every few hours.

Amma soaked rice the previous right. Appa and I would hand (dry) grind the rice. Amma didn’t like it to be too mushy or too coarse. Appa and I would take turns grinding it to perfection. Then we would add sugar and cardamom. Appa made mava vilaku and Amma would put ghee and a wick to light the lamp.

This was one of my favorite festivals.

I didn’t realize until much later in life that as I was lightning the lamps in my house in Chennai, there was a little boy named Kumar who was doing the same in Trichy, about 300 kilometers away. He was eagerly waiting for his to mom to make his favorite karthigi adai filled with coconut pieces. He couldn’t get enough of the sweet appams and salt appams that she made.

Fast forward a couple of decades.

I find myself doing the same for Adi and Ari. We are going to be lighting the lamps later today. I am making them sweet appams. I am getting ready to grind adai and throw in a lot of coconut pieces. I know the boys will gobble it all up.

Despite my lousy cooking skills, I know they’ll look back fondly at the sweet appams that their Amma made. I know they’ll light the lamps. I know they’ll try their best to keep traditions alive.

Holiday season is upon us. Keep those traditions alive. Whether it is the egg nog drinking or the pie eating contest. Whether it is the gathering around the piano to sing a few holiday songs or getting out in the cold and making a few snow angels. Light up that holiday tree and marvel at it like a little child.

Keep those traditions alive. Because, we live on for eternity through those traditions.

Happy Koodaravalli

Happy Koodaravalli!

Thanks to Appa and Amma for keeping track of all the little and big Indian festivals (too many of them!) and urging me to celebrate it with the boys.

It is a belief that each day of Marghazi month, Sri Andal Nachiar sang a verse of Thirupavai (totally 30 verses) in praise of Lord Narayana. While singing 27th verse “Koodaarai vellum seer Govinda…” Lord Narayana blessed Sri Andal with Thirukalyana Varam. Hence the 27th day of Margazhi month is celebrated as Koodaravalli.

On this day Lord Narayana blessed Sri Andal with marriage boon. Devotees go to temple, offer Ghee filled Akaravadisal to Lord Govinda and end Marghazhi Month Nonbu (fast).

I know. After reading all that I know what you are thinking.

“Ambal, let us cut to the chase. Where is my share of the akaravadisal?? Save some for me!”